Even after Shizuka stored the relic box out of sight, there was still some awkwardness left in the air. So Akira tried to change the mood by getting into the real reason why he came there that day.
“Shizuka-san, I actually want to consult about buying a new rifle. Is this a good time”
Akira slightly hesitated.
“…I actually want to look for a particular type of rifle, you see. But this might sound crazy, so if it does, please just forget about it.”
Shizuka frowned but immediately broke into a smile.
“I wont be able to tell unless you let me know first. So you can just go ahead, no need to hold back. Its also one of my jobs to cope with any requests that my customers ask me. Though I dont know whether I can find something that would satisfy you or not, Ill at least give my best effort to not betray your expectation.”
Akira looked relieved as he nodded, he then started to explain his wish.
After listening to Akiras wish, Shizuka hummed. It was indeed an unreasonable request.
A rifle that could rival the power of the CWH anti-material rifle with its special ammo, with the ability to shoot in rapid succession like a DVTS minigun, and could shoot grenades just like the A4WM automatic grenade launcher. Then to top it off Akira also wanted that rifle to be able to do long-range precision sniping too, and all of those features to be packed in a small-sized rifle. Although he was okay as long as he could use it with his current augmented suit, he wanted it to be as light as possible too.
“As I thought, theres no rifle that good, huh…”
Akira himself understood that he was saying unreasonable things. When he saw Shizuka hum while looking slightly troubled, he decided to take back what he said. That was when Shizuka said with still a slightly troubled face.
“If you ask me whether such a rifle exists or not, the answer would be yes.”
“Yes. There are actually many people who are looking for such a versatile rifle. So some companies actually manufactured such rifles and are selling them in the market, although, Im sure they only do that because theres demand for that sort of rifle. But personally speaking, I dont recommend you to get such a rifle…”
“Is that so Im sure it would be really helpful to have such a rifle though.”
Akira looked rather confused. Seeing that, Shizukas expression turned slightly cloudy, which was very rare for her. She then explained as if to emphasize the disadvantage of such a rifle.
“Because all those features are packed into one, such a rifle is usually exorbitantly expensive. Moreover, although it can do all of those things, its overall firepower is less when compared to a normal rifle of the same price tag. Of course, there are those with enough firepower to rival normal rifles. But with the better firepower, their prices also increase exponentially.”
“How big is this price gap”
“In your case, for a rifle thats basically an amalgamation of CWH anti-material rifle, DVTS minigun, A4WM automatic grenade launcher, and DSS sniper rifle, it will cost about the sum of all of those rifles with some zeros trailing.”
“I-I see, its really that expensive, huh”
“Yup, with that kind of awful price-to-performance ratio, I cant really recommend that kind of rifle.”
Shizuka started by pointing out the price disadvantage of such a rifle. Seeing that it was enough to make Akira rethink it, she then continued adding more reasons in order to discourage him from buying such a rifle.
“Not to mention that youll need a special set of skills to be able to effectively use that kind of rifle compared to when you use individual rifles. So, youll take more time mastering a single multi-type rifle compared to mastering multiple single-type rifles.”
Akira frowned even more. Shizuka then added one last detail as the last push.
“And even if you learn how to master it in a relatively short time, youll have less freedom and firepower compared to if youre using 4 different rifles. Like I said before, compared to 4 people having one rifle each, using one multi-type rifle definitely offers less firepower.”
Akira nodded. Although on the surface, Shizukas expression was saying that she felt guilty for not being able to comply with her customers request, deep inside, she was hoping that with this, Akira would change his mind.
Sara then suddenly interjected casually.
“Say, Akira. If you want a rifle for sniping, you can just buy a sniper rifle, right”
“No, Im already carrying around CWH anti-material rifle, DVTS minigun, and A4WM automatic grenade launcher. So I thought that it would be hard for me to move if I carry another rifle, you see…”
“Now that you mention it, you did bring a lot of rifles with you back in the Seranthal building. Even I limit the number of rifles that I carry to two at most.”
Sara smiled wryly, Akira replied back with a bashful bitter smile.
“Well, uhh, to be honest, if its possible, I want to use all the rifles I buy. It would be such a waste to just let them sit in my vehicle after I bought them after all. Whats more, theres nothing bad with having more firepower. All of my rifles have their different uses and its not like I can use any of them in place of another. But, its not like I can carry one more rifle, so I just thought that it would be great if theres a gun with all functions from the other guns packed into one.”
“Thats kinda true, but still, normally you wont carry each and every type of rifle just because each of them has a different use. If youre planning to go to a ruin where you would need that kind of firepower, you can just invite us to come, you know After all, we did ask you to come with us back in Mihazono ruin. Although its not like we can always come with you anytime you invite us since we have things to do too. But if you invite us to come, we might be able to fit it into our schedule… Or at least, Elena will, right, Elena”
Sara just realized that she was talking for both herself and Elena without asking Elena first. So Sara sent a glance to Elena remembering that she was a little bit finicky about changing her schedule. So, it might really annoy her if Sara suddenly changed their schedule without her consent first.
Elena smiled, it seemed that what Sara said did not bother her at all.
“Its alright. We did ask you to accompany us when we went to the Seranthal building in Mihazono ruin after all. I dont mind shifting the schedule a bit if you invite us.”
Sara sighed in relief. Elena saw that and smiled bitterly at her, and then turned to Akira and smiled at him too.
“So there you have it. If you need more help, you can ask us anytime.”
“Thank you very much, Ill ask for your help when I need it.”
Akira lightly smiled and bowed at Sara and Elena. Shizuka then smiled and made a suggestion to Akira.
“So then, Akira, whats your plan If youre going with Elena and Sara, as I thought, you wont need that rifle. You can just choose to bring rifles to complement Elena and Saras equipment. So instead of buying a multi-type rifle, you can just buy a sniper rifle, you know”
“Ah, thank you, but as I thought, I still want to get a multi-type rifle. I feel like I would cause Elena-san and Sara-san trouble if I suddenly impose on their schedule, after all. Uhh, what can I say… I often decide things pretty randomly, forget deciding what to do depending on my mood of that day, I sometimes even make decisions based on my mood at a given moment. I also often get involved in incidents that I didnt expect at all, so it would be great if I have a multi-type rifle that can do anything in that situation. So, as I thought, its better for me to still get a multi-type rifle, can you help me with that Although it might be weird for me to say this since Im the one who asked for help, Im not sure that I even have enough money to buy one.”
“…I see, Ill keep my eyes for any good deals then.”
Shizuka looked sad for a split-second. But before Akira could notice it, she immediately replaced it with a smile. And since it was a request from her customer, its not like she could just ignore it.
“So then, Akira, how much is your budget for this rifle”
“1 billion Aurum is my upper limit.”
Akira said it without much thinking. But when he noticed that Shizuka raised her eyebrows and looked at him with widened eyes, he flusteredly shook his head and said.
“No, its not like I have that much money with me right now. Its just that I havent really decided on a precise amount as the budget for that rifle. I just thought it would help me if I know the price and the quality of the rifle that I can get with such a price beforehand even if Im planning to only buy that rifle after saving some money.”
“I see, in that case, is it okay if I ask you why you come up with that number”
“Back then when I went to Mihazono ruin with Elena-san and Sara-san, I got 500 million Aurum from that request. So I thought that I would just double that amount for now.”
When Akira thought that he was able to get 500 million Aurum from last time, it made him think that 1 billion Aurum would not be out of his reach. Judging from the way he reacted, Shizuka figured that he put 1 billion Aurum as the upper limit to understand how good an equipment he could get with that amount of money, he did not think that he would be able to get and then use that much money anytime soon. Shizuka was slightly relieved when she understood that.
“Ahh, I see, so thats what you meant, huh. That did surprise me for a bit, you know.”
“Im sorry. But well, when I think about it, if I have 1 billion Aurum, I feel like Ill spend it on a new augmented suit and other extra equipment instead, so it might be weird when I put that as my budget limit… Not to mention I did spend 500 million Aurum to buy that bike too. Although its not like I regret spending that much money on that bike, when I think about it, I still have to buy a vehicle too. It also surprises me for a bit, I never thought that the day would come when I have 500 million Aurum and I still dont have enough money to get everything I need.”
Akira looked slightly conflicted and smiled bitterly when he said that. Shizuka only replied with a smile. After that, he stayed there for a bit, talking about how Hunters spent their money together with Shizuka, Elena, and Sara.
As their conversation continued, the subject then changed to Hunters equipment. That was when Akira remembered the fact that one of his rucksacks was damaged, so he decided to buy a new rucksack while he was there.
The rucksack that he bought was a very robust rucksack designed to offer protection for its contents. Although its volume could expand greatly, it could also be folded to save spaces when it was empty. It was one of the expensive items that Shizuka had in her stock. It cost 3 million Aurum per bag and Akira bought several of them.
But before Shizuka processed it, she asked Akira once more just to be extra sure.
“Well, I know that you have enough money to buy them and Im sure that Hunters would at least spend that much when they have to carry expensive relics, but are you really okay with it You can buy cheaper ones, you know”
“Yes. There was one time when I lost all my relics inside my backpack and something also happened recently that really made me worry about the relics inside my rucksack. So Im planning to replace some of my rucksacks with stronger ones just like these.”
Akira looked at his new rucksacks and smiled happily. He lost 40 million Aurum worth of relics back in the Seranthal building. And on his way back from Tsubakihara, he was about to lose a whole rucksack worth of relics too. So compared to losing those relics, these rucksacks were rather cheap. That was why he could not hold back his smile.
Now that he had finished his business in Shizukas shop, he immediately went back home, leaving Shizuka, Sara, and Elena behind.
Sara waved lightly at Akira as she saw him off with a smile. But once he left, her expression turned serious as she immediately started talking about something that she could not bring up while Akira was around.
“But still, where did Akira get those relics”
Although Sara believed Akira might as well just tell her if she asked him, in the end, she deliberately held herself back from asking that question. A source where a Hunter could find expensive relics was extremely important for Hunters. If she wanted to ask that question, she needed to be pretty close to Akira first.
To be honest, Sara was sure Akira was not that much of a stranger to her that it would anger him had she asked that question. But given what happened between them recently, Sara decided to be more careful for the time being.
Sara actually also wanted to apologize to Akira for the other day, but Shizuka stopped her. Apologizing to Akira now might backfire and remind him of what happened back then. So if she wanted to apologize, Shizuka advised her that it might be a good idea to wait for some time until he was not bothered anymore by that matter.
Elena recalled what Akira had bought and made a guess.
“A few high-quality rucksacks and 2 anti-forcefield bullets, huh. Akira did not hesitate at all when he bought those. So, basically, he knows for sure they would be useful to him. Though its only my guess, maybe he has found another undiscovered ruin.”
Elena then frowned.
[If that 1 billion Aurum is not based on the money that he got from Mihazono ruin but from his guess of how much money he can get from that undiscovered ruin… Then if he bought those anti-forcefield armour bullets because he knows that hes going to use them to fight such powerful monsters there… Although he did say that he would ask us for help if he needs it, judging from his reaction, Im not sure that he would really ask for our help…]
Last time, Akira casually told Elena and Sara about Yonozuka station ruin back then when it still had no name yet. But this time, it did not seem that Akira would do the same thing again if he really had found a new undiscovered ruin. Leaving aside the possibility that his trust dropped after what happened last time, the location of Yonozuka ruin also quickly spread among other Hunters after he told Elena and Sara. So Elena thought there was nothing strange for him to be more cautious this time.
[In the worst-case scenario, even trying to ask him this time might cause him to get suspicious of us trying to probe information from him. As long as he does not bring up the subject himself, we need to be careful not to touch on it. Though to be honest, it would be great if he would invite us to go to a prospective ruin since that way we can regain back his trust by working with him again…]
Last time, Elena and Sara invited Akira to go to Mihazono ruin thinking that it would be a light ruin exploration, but out of the blue, they got that sudden request to go to the Seranthal building which then turned into a fierce fight. Even now, Elena was not sure if Akira thought that it was worth the trouble or not. It was fully expected for someone to be cautious or even to decline an invitation from someone else that he or she did not trust. And it was doubly true when it came to Hunter work where they put their lives at stake too.
As someone who was used to handling negotiations, Elena tried to objectively evaluate herself from Akiras point of view. But with her feelings and wishes getting in her way, she could not help but make a stern face.
Shizuka looked at Elena and Sara. Both of them could not be said to be in a good mood, though she could guess why both of them looked rather troubled.
“Elena, Sara, about the relics that Akira brought here today. If both of you have the time, can you girls help me out Of course, Ill also look for potential buyers, but can you help me out if you know someone who might buy them If they sell well, itll be easier for me to recommend expensive equipment to Akira.”
Sara lightly smiled.
“Of course, I might even buy some from you. After all, I always wanted to get some extra spares.”
“Just so you know, theres no discount.”
“I know. Dont worry, Ill buy it at a higher price than the market price. After all, itll still be cheaper than buying them from the other traders.”
Elena smiled and jumped in too.
“In that case, I should look for a merchant who would buy them at a higher price to pull the market price up.”
“Elena Were friends, right Its okay for me to expect some help from you, right”
“But of course. Itll still be cheaper than buying them from the other traders, right I can use that buying price as a trump card to raise the selling value of those relics when I negotiate with the other traders.”
Sara and Elena exchanged mischievous smiles.
Looking at them, Shizuka also smiled as she thought.
If Elena and Sara did something to increase the value of Akiras relics, and if she let Akira know about it, it would help Elena and Sara regain his trust. It should also help lower the hurdle for Akira to ask for their help which in turn should change his mind about buying that multi-type rifle.
Shizuka did not lie when she discouraged Akira from buying a multi-type rifle. But she also did not tell him the biggest reason why he should not buy that rifle. And that reason was once Akira mastered how to use that rifle, it would be less likely for him to ask for others help.
Akira wanted equipment to help him face any situations. He desired multi-function equipment because the thought of having other people to cover for his weakness never crossed his mind.
For Akira, other people were either enemies or not enemies, but never allies. He did not expect others to help him. That line of thinking was carved deep inside his mind and Shizuka noticed it.
Even if Akira helped someone, it was very likely that he did not expect that person to give anything back. But that was not out of kindness, or selflessness, or good virtue. It was simply because the concept of one hand washes the other had no place in his mind. So Shizuka predicted that he would be quick to abandon other people. The concept of relationship to him was completely one-sided, something that he only entertained out of his selfishness.
Shizuka hoped that one day Akira would find someone who would mutually help one another. It could be herself or anyone else, she honestly did not care who it might be.
On another day, just like usual, Akira went to Higaraka residence ruin again. And just like last time, he was there to training his skill in detecting enemies and sneaking around the ruin and effectively searching for relics in a ruin.
If it was not for training, there was no real motivation for Akira to do something so tiring in that ruin. So at first, he was not that excited with the training, but it did not take long for Akira to switch gears and start taking the training seriously. But this time, there was something different, Akira looked around and slightly frowned.
“…Alpha, dont you think there are more people than usual today”
“Youre indeed right about that, Akira. Lets gain some distance from them before starting to look for relics again.”
“Thought so, alright then.”
In the middle of the training, Akira regularly checked his information terminal to look for enemies and other Hunters while avoiding them. He was also being careful so they would not be able to detect him. Although he had been doing that all this time, today, there were many occasions where he was passing close to other Hunters or monsters. Because of that, todays relic hunting proceeded slower than usual.
“The relics in this ruin are already mostly depleted, right So why are they coming to this ruin”
“I bet they are here because of some kind of rumour saying that a Hunter found some expensive relics in an unlikely ruin.”
“…Thats me, isnt it”
Akira made a stern face and did not say anything for a few seconds. He then went back to his bike that he parked not too far from him and hopped on it.
“Alpha, lets head back for today. Theres something I want to check.”
Akira then left that ruin. After he was gone from that place, other Hunters who were scanning his position appeared. They then started searching carefully at the places that he had searched.
When Akira arrived back at Kugamayama city, he immediately headed to Katsuragis trailer. Katsuragi, who was waiting in his trailer just like usual, noticed Akira parking his bike not too far from him.
“Akira, huh. Ah, right, the medicines that you ordered just arrived. Are you here for those medicines today …- Wait, dont tell me that youre here with more old-world terminals.”
“Ill take the medicines, and also, theres something else that I want to ask you.”
“Oh, what is it”
Akira then told Katsuragi what happened that day in Higaraka residence ruin. About the Hunters who were flooding a ruin that should have no more valuable relics anymore, how it was obvious that those Hunters were watching and following him, and how he was suspecting that it was because of Katsuragis doing.
But Katsura casually replied.
“Yeah, no surprise at all.”
Akira was surprised. He did not expect Katsuragi to say something that sounded as if he just admitted his involvement. But seeing Akiras expression, Katsuragi exasperatedly explained.
“Just so you know, I never told anyone else that you brought those old-world information terminals to me. Just think about it, if I do something like that, other Hunters would definitely steal those relics from you and it would end up bringing less profit for me. After all, that would mean you would bring fewer relics to my shop, you know.”
“Well, you have a point there, but…”
Akira did not look fully convinced, so Katsuragi sighed and continued.
“Thought it might be weird for me to be the one saying this, but it seems that you underestimated the effect of bringing those relics to me twice.”
“Effect But Im just normally selling relics though”
Katsuragi sighed again, there was a mix of exasperation on his face.
“Good grief! Although youre already stronger than those common Hunters, youre still a beginner in terms of Hunter knowledge and experience, huh”
“Well, sorry about that.”
Akira looked slightly offended, to which Katsuragi gave a big smile.
“Very well then, it would be a huge pain in the neck to have one of my main customers doubt me. So Ill give you a long detailed explanation here.”
Katsuragi and Akira went into the staff room in Katsuragis trailer, and just like last time, Katsuragi prepared some drinks and put them on the table between them before they sat face to face across the table. Katsuragi then immediately started his explanation.
The information terminals that Akira brought to Katsuragi were of very good condition. Those relics were hard to find among the ruins around Kugamayama city, but even so, a low ranking Hunter like Akira was able to get his hand on those relics, twice no less.
If it was only once, it could be dismissed as just luck. But since Akira brought them to Katsuragi twice, it opened up to a whole variety of possibilities. After all, it opened up the possibility of a narrative that it did not matter whether Akira found them at first out of pure luck or because he worked super hard to find those relics. But Akira, who did not know their worth, did not expect them to be that valuable the first time he brought them to Katsuragi, and so he decided to go look for those relics again for the second time.
It might hint at the existence of another undiscovered ruin. After all, it was a normal thing to find similar relics from around the same ruin.
“Those relics inspectors that I called saw you sell those relics twice themselves. Although it would still be a guess, it was enough for some people to make their moves. Those relics are just simply that valuable, you see. But to be honest, I find it strange for them to react this quickly just from that. I bet you sold your relics in another place, right”
“…Those were just old-world clothing. It should not have anything to do with this.”
“Too naive! Expensive relics are still expensive regardless even if they are only just old-world clothing. Though Im sure theyre nowhere as expensive as old-world terminals, it does not change the fact that you brought expensive relics 3 times in a row.”
“…But its still strange for them to follow me just because of that. They should not know where I sold my relics and what kind of relics that I sold.”
“Again, too naive! I dont know where you sold your relics, but if that shop has some connections with the Hunter Office, it would be nothing strange for that information to quickly spread around. Or more like, those shops which partnered with the Hunter Office could use your Hunter Code to track the type of relics you sell. As a matter of fact, those people who want to avoid that sell their relics to shops that have no connections with the Hunter Office. I thought that youre only bringing relics to Sheryls place or to me because you want to avoid that too, but that doesnt seem to be the case, huh”
“So thats why, huh…”
Akira regretted his own blunder, but he was also relieved at the same time. After all, it meant that it was unlikely for Shizuka to leak that information herself. Shizuka shop was most likely partnered with the Hunter Office, so he bet his deals with Shizuka were registered into the Hunter Office since she was obliged to do so. And someone must have sniffed on that information afterwards. With his suspicion now gone, Akira cheered back up.
“But if that kind of information is always registered in the Hunter Office, wont that make those Hunters wanting to avoid it stop selling relics to those shops”
“High ranking Hunters can ask the Hunter Office to put an extra lid on that information. Of course, its only available for those high ranking Hunters with special privileges. By the way, what is your Hunter ranking”
“If Im not mistaken, 29.”
Katsuragi looked a bit surprised as well as exasperated.
“Those powerful equipment with such a low Hunter Rank, it wont be strange for people to call you a fraud.”
Akira smiled wryly. Most of his strength was fully relying on Alpha. So he thought that low Hunter Rank was suitable for his real strength without Alphas support.
Katsuragi then continued his explanation.
The reason why those Hunters stopped back-tracking Akiras activities only up to Higaraka residence ruin was simply because that was the result of them putting up a net based on how far a low-ranking Hunter of ranking 29 could normally go. That way, they could narrow down their guesses without having to keep their eyes on Akira. Although it took some money, it was nothing compared to the money that they could get from those old-world information terminals.
As Katsuragi explained to him, Akira started to understand the effect of him selling those relics.
“Well, I guess thats the gist of it, huh. If I have to add something, theres also a good chance those relics inspectors that I called also leaked that information. But even so, that would not be my fault. I did ask for your permission first before I called them and you gave me your approval after all.”
“I know, I will not blame you about that at all.”
Katsuragi gave a big nod, he then casually said.
“…So then, are you here to buy anything today”
Akira opened his new rucksack, pulled out his relics, and lined them on the table. This time, it was 6 old-world information terminals. When Akira was done, Katsuragi could not hold back his joy and laughed heartily.
“…Including the old-world clothing, this would make it 4 times in a row, right If it wasnt you, I would have gotten suspicious at this point, you know.”
“Its not like Im forcing you to buy them.”
“Geez, dont say that. So then, did you get these in Higaraka residence ruin Do you think you still can find some more of these relics there”
Akira replied instantly in such a casual manner.
“I have no obligation to tell you anything.”
Katsuragi tried his best to hold back his laughter.
“My bad, my bad, Ill at least ask you this again, is it okay if I call some relics inspectors to check these relics”
“No need to ask me that again, you can go ahead and just do that.”
Katsuragi could not hold back his laughter as he proceeded to make a call. After that, he bought those relics from Akira for 70 million Aurum. Thanks to the small adjustment to his capital that he did beforehand, he had no problem paying that amount of money this time.
Katsuragi did not lie there. Although he did not leak the information that it was Akira who sold those old-world information terminals, he was actually spreading information that he had some connections with a Hunter who could get such a valuable relic. For a merchant like Katsuragi, having a connection to a competent Hunter brought him a lot of benefits. After all, having a mere rumour of such a thing out in the public was enough to pull up his revenue.
Though Akira did not give a straight answer to Katsuragis questions, he also did not lie there. Even if Katsuragi misunderstood him thinking that Akira actually got those relics from Higaraka residence ruin and there were still similar relics that he could find there, it would not cause any trouble for him. Not to mention, Akira was not that close to Katsuragi that he would go out of his own way to fix that misunderstanding.-